COVINGTON, Ky. (AP) — Covington officials are seeking to widen the sections of the city where panhandling is completely banned.
City Attorney Frank Warnock has proposed adding an area around the Gateway Community and Technical College campus, which plans an $81.5 million expansion in downtown Covington over the next two years.
The Kentucky Enquirer reported (http://bit.ly/15EA6Wp ) that Gateway officials contacted the city about the issue. Warnock and Covington Police Chief Spike Jones met with Gateway leaders and arrived at adding the new zone.
"You can see how it would make going to school there less attractive, and make it harder to get students to come to the area. We think this is part of the solution. It's not the total solution by itself," Warnock said.
City ordinances already prohibit panhandling in tourist areas along the Ohio River, MainStrasse Village and Madison Avenue, while aggressive begging — pursuing a person after they've already refused, using obscene language or soliciting money near banks, ATMs and bus stops — is not allowed within city limits.
City commissioners will vote on the ordinance change at their next meeting on Oct. 22.
The original ordinance was put into place in 2003, modeled after laws already in place throughout the country that withstood legal challenges. It provides for a $100 fine or 30 days in jail for a first offense, and fines up to $250 or 90 days in jail for each further violation within the following year.
Josh Spring, the executive director of the Greater Cincinnati Coalition for the Homeless, said such laws are "short-sighted and morally wrong." Cities should not get distracted by panhandling and instead look for ways to attack the causes of poverty and homelessness.
"In reality, we're talking about no more than a couple of handfuls of people — people who need help, and you're trying to legislate away their right to ask someone a question," Spring said.